Comparative family policy studies have flourished in recent years. The
enormous expansion of the field since the pioneering work of Kamerman
and Kahn (1978) has been accompanied by a growing variety of perspectives,
theoretical and methodological approaches (Gauthier, 1999). At the same
time, family policy has become more closely connected to welfare state
research (Esping-Andersen, 1999; Hantrais, 1999).
Results of comparative projects suggest that Western European countries
can be broadly clustered into five groups with similar family policy features
(see also Kaufmann, 1993): the Scandinavian countries with heavily child-orientated
policies and emphasis on gender equality (based on social citizenship
rights coupled with highly-developed social services and high compatibility
of family and work); Britain and Ireland with a liberal, non-interventionist
family policy, addressing poor families and children at risk (based on
the idea of private autonomy with limited public services and benefits);
the Southern European countries with weak welfare states and strong kinship
ties (based on high family solidarity combined with scarce public services
and low family benefits); France and Belgium as the European pioneers
of family policy with a combination of traditional and progressive policy
elements (based on the recognition of the family as an important social
institution, supported by both generous family allowances and social services);
Germany and Austria with less developed and more conservative family policies
(with institutional recognition of the family, based on financial support,
modestly developed services, and less compatibility of family and work).
Plan of the book
The book aims to contribute to comparative family policy research by
a distinct profile: the geographic focus is on Southern Europe and Scandinavia,
sometimes compared to other European countries; contributions typically
include a small number of cases, and the book combines quantitative and
qualitative approaches as well as institutional and historical perspectives.
The geographic focus generates a particular view of Europe which is mainly
seen from the perspectives of peripheries: Southern Europe and Scandinavia.
Most contributions focus on one of these groups or include a Southern
or Scandinavian country in their comparisons. Southern and Scandinavian
countries represent distinct groups within the European spectrum, often
regarded as opposites: the persistence of close kinship relations in Southern
Europe is juxtaposed to the paramount importance of the individual in
Scandinavia; the significance of the family in the social division of
labour is reverse in both cases; and the importance of public and private
realms is at opposite ends within Europe. These fundamental differences
suggest distinct models of family policy. On the other hand, variations
within both groups have received growing attention due to delayed, but
rapid modernization in Southern Europe and the impact of economic recession
on Scandinavian welfare states, which have sharpened 'old' and produced
new differences within groups.
Articles typically focus on a small number of countries, ranging from
case studies to a maximum of five countries; the most frequent design
is a comparison of two to three countries. Such a design is well-suited
for understanding institutional arrangements in individual countries without
sacrificing the advantages of the comparative approach. It leads to cautious
interpretations of empirical findings and allows for investigation of
specificities of individual cases which are often overlooked in largescale
comparisons. The 'smalln design' sharpens the view for historical developments
which have shaped a country's family system and policy in specific ways.
The book has two parts. One deals with family policy patterns, including
politics of family policies, family models, and ideologies. The other
examines individual family policy fields in a comparative perspective:
female employment, lone parents, childcare institutions, and policies
for children and youth; in this part, comparisons include other European
countries as well.
Family policy patterns
The first two contributions explore family policy in Southern Europe.
Lluis Flaquer identifies core elements of a Southern European model of
family policy and attempts to discern its dynamics, reproductive mechanisms,
and major challenges. Differences between Southern European countries
are regarded as variations within the same basic model: a strong family
and kinship system, a weak welfare state, and a highly segregated labour
market have reinforced each other and shaped this model in which 'the
welfare family is the welfare state'. The survival of the model is threatened
by rising female participation in education and employment and declining
Carlos and Maratou-Alipranti describe emerging new family forms in Southern
Europe and their impact on family policy developments. Their main argument
is one of delayed modernization. New family forms, like dual-earner and
lone-parent families, have started growing much later in Southern Europe
and are still rare compared to other European countries. Up to now, family
policy has not considered them as central issues. Instead, the poverty
risks of families have received attention through selective measures.
The impact of political systems in Southern Europe with long periods of
authoritarian rule, delayed democratization, and political systems which
are said to operate on a clientelistic basis are analysed by Monica Carlos
and Manuela Naldini, aiming at explaining the lack of explicit family
policies in these highly family-orientated countries. Carlos describes
the cases of Spain, Greece and Portugal, where since the advent of democracy,
family policy has been identified with conservative, Fascist policies
of the past. On the other hand, various implicit family policy measures
have been developed, in particular selective measures combatting the poverty
of families. The impact of parties' ideologies on family policies has
been weak, however, because governments have concentrated on issues regarded
as more pressing than family policy, such as unemployment, poverty, and
(later) membership in the European Community.
Naldini compares family policy-making in Spain and Italy with respect
to family allowances which have been constantly in decline. Only in 1988
in Italy and in 1990 in Spain were major reforms enacted whereby family
allowances became meanstested, antipoverty measures. The long way to reform
in Italy is explained by a political system characterized by piece-meal
reforms seeking to compromise different actors under the predominance
of Christian democracy. Moreover, the highly clientelistic character of
the Italian political system prevented the politicization of more 'general'
The Scandinavian model and its variations are studied by Bent Greve and
Gudny Björk Eydal. The widely shared assumption in comparative research
about these countries is one of highly-developed welfare states emphasizing
social citizenship rights, gender equality and individualism. Greve aims
at showing the persistence of a distinct Scandinavian model of family
policy. His analysis shows that core elements of the model are still there,
although there are variations, for example in the socalization of child
care costs. Greve distinguishes between the family-friendly and 'high-solidarity'
welfare states, Finland and Denmark, and the more transfer-based welfare
states, Sweden and Norway.
Eydal looks at child-care institutions and services in the Nordic countries,
especially in Iceland. She attempts to explain Iceland's exceptionalism
which is characterized by a small-scale welfare state, a limited public
child-care system and, at the same time, one of the highest rates of full-time
labour force participation of women. Eydal points first of all to political
factors, since in Iceland rightwing parties were in government most of
the time after World War II, but cultural factors seem to have played
a role as well, above all traditions of individual selfreliance that have
historically characterized Icelandic society.
Keeping the differences between Southern European and Scandinavian countries
in mind, what can reasonably be expected from an EU family policy? Doris
Weiss addresses this question in her contribution. showing that the impact
of Council directives and European Court decisions on family policy has
been limited to removing barriers to free mobility of labour (including
families of workers) and gender equality on the labour market. As in other
areas of social policy, the European approach has foremost been one of
coordination rather than harmonization and can be critized of being too
restrictive for pursuing the idea of a European social citizenship.
In a broader perspective, family laws and regulations also express what
is regarded as legitimate or 'ideal' social behaviour. Undoubtedly, the
family has been a major battlefield for struggles between values and ideologies,
and we can find traces of these in laws, attitudes and people's behaviour.
Eriikka Oinonen and Esther Fernández Mostaza embark on studies
of family models and ideologies in their contributions. Oinonen compares
family institutions in Spain and Finland. In both countries, changes in
law and behaviour have gone in the same direction, but timing, speed and
outcomes have been different. In Spain, the emergence and growth of more
liberal and individualized aspects of law and behaviour were delayed,
but changes have been dramatic since the advent of democracy and the opening
of cultural borders. Today, Spaniards are among Europeans with most liberal
attitudes towards modern living arrangements, although family behaviour
remains traditional. At the same time, the family is upheld as a major
value and institution. This is also true for Finland with its longer history
of individualism. According to Oinonen the modern family has become an
ideology, no longer closely connected to people's behaviour, but continuing
to dominate our thinking.
Fernández Mostaza points to the paramount influence of the Catholic
Church on the long persistence of conservative family values and policies
in Spanish society. Though economic and social systems were already changing
in the later years under Franco, these processes were of a peculiar nature,
pushed by a policy of conservative modernization 'from the top', even
a technocratic variant without extending civil, political and social rights.
Religious groups have played a major role in this modernization process.
Fernández Mostaza shows in particular the influence of the Catholic
organization Opus Dei, whose members occupied key positions among political
elites, both under Franco and in conservative democratic governments,
and were main promoters of conservative modernization policy. A similar
combination of tradition and modernity can be found in the family model
and ideology of Opus Dei. In this model, the practical functions of the
family are open to rationally motivated adaptations to social change,
whereas their traditional value bases, the patriarchal nature of the family
institution above all, are defended.
Family policy fields
The rise in female employment is one of the most important changes in
the social division of labour in European societies which has strongly
affected family policies. Sarah Grattan and Eva Sundström address
this issue in their contributions. Grattan compares Ireland and The Netherlands,
countries characterized by a traditional division of labour between men
and women before the 1970s, with among the lowest female employment rates
and the highest fertility rates in Europe. Both countries can be characterized
by late cultural and socio-economic modernization. In contrast to Ireland,
most of the rise in female employment in The Netherlands has been part-time.
Grattan argues that part-time work has been the specific Dutch solution
to the problem of compatibility of family and work, although labour market
policies have also played a role. The country has become Europe's first
and leading part-time economy based on social consensus between government
and social partners and supported by policies aiming towards equal status
of part-time and full-time work.
The significance of the rise in female employment is not confined to labour
markets but touches issues of family work and compatibility of parenthood
and employment. Attitudes partly reflect these differences. Eva Sundström's
analysis of gender attitudes regarding female employment in Sweden, Italy,
and Germany reveals that, not unexpectedly, Swedes have the most positive
attitudes towards female employment in general. Germans have more conservative
attitudes than both Swedes and Italians. They especially dislike mothers'
full-time employment. Differences between countries show 'national' attitude
patterns which may in part be attributed to structural conditions.
Lone mothers have received particular attention in family policy studies
as a growing group, living in disadvantaged conditions with high poverty
risks. Elisabetta Ruspini analyses lone mothers' poverty risks in five
European countries and finds huge variations. Countries strongly supporting
female employment, like the Scandinavian countries and countries with
well-developed family policies like Belgium (or France), show lower poverty
risks than countries in which both integration into the labour force and
family benefits are less developed, like in Britain.
Claudia Gardberg Morner's article studies lone mothers' living conditions
and economic strategies in the city of Turin. She analyses how mothers
interact with welfare authorities, employers, neighbours, father(s) of
their child(ren), and their families of origin, developing strategies
to cope with their difficult life situation Some crucial aspects characterize
the Italian context. The public welfare system is underdeveloped and provides
only discretionary benefits. Neighbourhood solidarity does not exist.
On the other hand, lone mothers receive substantial support from their
families of origin, which is often perceived as ambivalent, since it creates
Child care is the topic in the contributions of Wendy Sims-Schouten, Bente
Nicolaysen and Birgit Fix. Sims-Schouten studies child-care systems in
England, Finland and Greece, showing major variations both in public and
private provisions and parents' attitudes. Finland has one of the most
developed public child-care systems in Europe. Finnish parents seem to
be satisfied with the provided services and regard them as both professional
and welcoming to the child. England has an expensive, high-quality private
child-care system and limited public provision for children at risk. Parents
seem to be satisfied regarding the quality of institutions, even if a
lack of affordable places is reported. In Greece, there are few public
child-care facilities, and existing public institutions have a bad reputation;
the predominant child-care arrangement is the grandmother or alternatively
a babysitter hired on the black market.
In recent years, the contribution of voluntary associations to social
welfare has received growing attention. Even in Scandinavia they have
strongly influenced welfare state developments. Bente Nicolaysen shows
that traditions of voluntary social work have greatly influenced child-care
ideas and practices in Norway. She analyses how Froebel's ideas have evolved
among groups of benevolent middle class women in the 19th and early 20th
centuries and how these traditions have been integrated into the growing
public child-care sector.
Birgit Fix' contribution highlights the relevance of historical church-state
cleavages for developments of child-care institutions, especially kindergartens
and preschools. Her comparison includes countries with relative strong
church-state cleavages (Belgium), religiously mixed populations (The Netherlands,
Germany), and a country where state and church had acted as partners throughout
most of its history (Austria). She argues that stronger church-state cleavages
lead to more developed church-based kindergarten and preschool systems.
Results show that in all countries except Austria the churches have developed
extensive networks of kindergartens and preschools. The exception of Austria
is explained by the fact that there was no longlasting strong competition
between state and church for the social integration of the population.
In the last section of the book, Claus Wendt and Helena Laaksonen study
policies for children and youth. Wendt analyses child health services
in Britain, Denmark, Austria, and Germany. Two of the four countries have
national health services; two have statutory sickness insurance systems.
Wendt works out competitive and cooperative elements in these two types
and analyses consequences for child health services. He argues that universal
access to services and broadly based financing are of paramount importance
for children's health care needs. Furthermore, service coordination, preventive
measures, and free exchange of information are crucial. In these aspects,
national health services have advantages over insurance systems. On the
other hand, access to specialist care and paediatricians is easier in
Helena Laaksonen's study on the welfare of young adults between labour
market, state, and family is motivated by the impact of this crisis on
young people's life chances, in particular in Finland which was hit hardest.
Her study on the economic situation of young adults in Italy, Spain, Germany,
Sweden, and Finland reveals three broad patterns. In Southern European
countries, youth unemployment has been persistently high. Young people
stay in education longer, but do not receive substantial study grants.
The system depends heavily on family solidarity and support. In Germany
youth unemployment is low and transition to work relatively smooth. Young
adults have a chance to become economically independent as workers at
an early stage in life. Students, however, remain dependent on financial
assistance from their family of origin because the German study grant
system is modest. In Scandinavia, under the impact of recession, young
people have become more dependent on both the family and the state because
job chances have worsened. In comparative perspective, however, the state
still takes large responsibility for providing young people with means
for subsistence, even if they have been frequently pushed into work or
Pfenning, Astrid, and Thomas Bahle, eds. (2000): Families and Family
Policies in Europe: Comparative Perspectives. Frankfurt am Main: Peter
Lang. 359pp., DM 98.00, ISBN 3-631-37078-4.
Esping-Andersen, G. (1999). Social Foundations of Postindustrial Economies.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gauthier, A. H. (1999). 'The sources and methods of comparative family
policy research'. Comparative Social Research 18: 31-56.
Hantrais, L. (1999). 'Comparing family policies in Europe'. In J. Clasen,
ed. Comparative Social Policy. Concepts, Theories, Methods. Oxford: Blackwell:
Kamerman, S. and A. Kahn, eds. (1978). Family Policy: Government and Families
in Fourteen Countries. New York: Columbia University Press.
Kaufmann, F. X. (1993). 'Familienpolitik in Europa'. In Bundesministerium
für Familie und Senioren, ed. 40 Jahre Familienpolitik in der Bundesrepublik
Deutschland: Rückblick, Ausblick. Neuwied: Luchterhand: 141-68.
Dr. Thomas Bahle/ Astrid
MZES,Research Department A
L7,1, 68131 Mannheim
Tel: 0049(0)621-181-2813 and -2809
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Astrid Pfenning and Thomas Bahle have been managers of a
Training and Mobility Programme for Young Researchers. 'Family and Welfare
State in Europe', co-ordinated by the MZES. The book presents results
of this programme.